JD Duarte (The Newton Gang)
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JD Duarte (The Newton Gang)

New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Band Country Americana

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Jun
15
JD Duarte (The Newton Gang) @ Jalopy

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Brooklyn, New York, USA

May
25
JD Duarte (The Newton Gang) @ Branded Saloon

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Brooklyn, New York, USA

May
17
JD Duarte (The Newton Gang) @ Bar Matchless

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Brooklyn, New York, USA

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The Brooklyn Country folks like living dangerously: they didn’t even put a canopy over the stage before the all-day parade of bands started. But they didn’t let a few drops of rain, a massive bank of cumulo nimbus overhead moving closer and closer or the miserable tropical humidity stop them from putting on one of the best shows this city’s seen this year. Their frequent Brooklyn County Fair shindigs go all day and into the night: this time around, the daytime venue was the pleasant Urban Meadow community garden space where President Street deadends into the water in Red Hook. The only ironic thing about the country music being made in Brooklyn these days is that it’s better than 95% of what’s coming out of Nashville: Saturday’s lineup was a goldmine of both retro and cutting-edge country and Americana talent.

Plagued with technical difficulties, Maynard & the Musties’ opening set was a wash (and looked like it would be a wash in more ways than one, with the clouds as dark as they were, but the sky never broke). They’re playing Lakeside on Friday the 23rd if you missed them here – and by the looks of the crowd, you probably did.

String band Me Before You blended bluegrass, folk and oldtime hillbilly sounds with some gorgeous vocal harmonies from brother and sister Anthony and Amy Novak, who switched on and off between guitar and mandolin, anchored by Carlos Barriento’s often haunting, bowed bass and Joyce Chen’s soaring fiddle. Their version of Blue Moon of Kentucky started slow and soulful, then turned on a dime and went doublespeed. But their originals were the best, Amy’s wary, somewhat wounded delivery evoking something of a cross between Patsy Cline and countrypolitan singer-songwriter Carolyn AlRoy. Toward the end of the set, Anthony finally cut loose with a sizzling guitar solo on one of their upbeat numbers, somehow managing to keep his fingers on the fretboard despite the heat and humidity.

The Dixons didn’t let the heat phase them either. Decked out in their retro hats and suits, they looked and sounded straight out of Bakersfield, 1964 – there hasn’t been a New York band who’ve done this kind of honkytonk so effortlessly and expertly well since Buddy Woodward put the Nitro Express in mothballs and headed for the hills of Virginia. Dixons frontman and rhythm guitarist Jeff Mowrer sang with a sly baritone a lot like Junior Brown while drummer Brother Paul hung back with a stick in his right hand and a brush in his left, delivering the slinkiest shuffle beat you could possibly imagine, Smilin’ Joe Covington pushing it along with his upright bass and Telecaster player Chris Hartway bringing back the ghost of Duane Eddy to guide his fast fingers. Guest pedal steel player Skip Krevens would kick off the solos and then Hartway would finish them, taking it up a notch with one lusciously reverb-drenched, twangy, tuneful fill after another – a little bluegrass, a little blues, a little surf, he did it all. Between songs, the crowd was silent: they didn’t know what hit them. They turned Ernest Tubb’s Thanks a Lot into a Hudson Hornet era boogie and happily repatriated Waylon Jennings’ Sweet Sweet Mental Revenge to a time before Pam Tillis was born. Their briskly shuffling opening tune, Still Your Fool (title track to their excellent album) set the tone for the day; The Lonesome Side of Me was period perfect not just with the music but also the lyrics, a vibe that would happen again and again during their set.

Led by Texas expat and bartitone crooner (and Brooklyn Country honch0) JD Duarte alongside chanteuse Carin Gorrell, the Newton Gang were just as good – but in a completely different way. The Dixons sound as fresh as they do because hardly anyone around these parts has that kind of sound, and the same goes for these guys. But where the Dixons have every part completely nailed down cold, the Newton Gang are just loose enough to be dangerous, part outlaw country, part evil-tinged paisley underground rockers. With a careening two-guitar attack of Duarte and agile, smartly terse Telecaster player Alan Lee Backer, they shifted unexpectedly and edgily between major and minor keys, through a brutal ballad about a kid who kills his entire family, several escape anthems (a recurrent theme in this band) and a pretty unhinged version of A Woman Scorned, a fiery, chugging tune from the band’s upcoming album. Pedal steel player Gordon Hartin built a river of dark textures, giving a fluid underpinning to the crash-and-burn overhead while drummer David Ciolino-Volano and bassist Chet Hartin teamed up for a backbeat pulse that swung like crazy – not what you’d expect from a twangy monster like this group. Unlike the parade of Carrie Underwood soundalikes out there, Gorrell goes for an often darkly aware, no-nonsense Tammy Wynette approach. Her lead vocals packed a mean punch on the rousing Mistreat Me, just as much a challenge as a come-on, a test to see if the guy’s man enough for her.

By the time they were done, the temperature had tumbled pleasantly by at least twenty degrees, but the clouds looked like they’d finally reached their limit. Alana Amram & the Rough Gems, another excellent band who mix country and rock in a cool rather than cheesy way, were next, followed by zydeco/honkytonk band the Doc Marshalls and then Americana singer Michaela Anne. But the way the sky was looking, it was time for a raincheck. We made it just past Abilene on Court St. before the monsoon hit. - Lucid Culture


"Rooted firmly in the stealth-outlaw tradition of their 1920s namesake, The Newton Gang sneaks up on the listener like a good Kentucky Bourbon—mellow on the intake, but fueled by a strong, soulful kick that’ll leave you sprawled in a corner at closing time, pining for the redneck childhood you never had. Trading off between the burnt-sugar baritone of San Antonio refugee J.D. Duarte and the classic high’n’lonesomes of Ms. Carin Gorrell, and propped up by the classic twang of some of Brooklyn Country’s finest backup boys, The Newton Gang provides the kind of sincere, soft-spoken soundtrack perfect for long-distance drives and hungover mornings." - Uncle Leon, BrooklynCountry.com


I saw two bands this evening whose albums I own despite having never seen them perform live. The Newton Gang sound exactly the same live and on their album. Lead singer JD (as you can see from his guitar strap) said it took five years to get the album recorded. Well that explains that! - Marcus Lauer


Tucked into the edge of Carroll Gardens, where Brooklyn meets the Battery Tunnel, ?The Fabulous Jalopy Theatre? (or just "the Jalopy") is a little muscle of folk culture.

Standing behind the bar in cowboy boots and a knitted shawl, Lynette Wiley has a strong handshake and a gentle smile. Lynette and her husband, Geoff Wiley, opened the venue four years ago? when they came to New York with a vision to build a music performance and learning space.

"They were looking for places all over the world," says Dorina Favela, long-time-friend and employee at the Jalopy. "They wanted something off the beaten path, where music lovers would come no matter what."

The Jalopy is the perfect setting for a wide contingent of musicians who play the blues, folk, bluegrass, international and old-timey music. Much like an intricately finger-picked country tune, the Jalopy features the raw power of roots music with the elegance of a hand-built stage.

?Geoff Wiley is both a musician and a craftsman. He built everything from the decorative finish on the bar, to the instrument retail case, to the wooden sink in the bathroom. ?

"Everything but the toilet," said Dorina.?

Customers drink beer or wine from mason jars and nestle into the dark wood pews. The selection of antique and used string instruments compliment the stained wood motif and make the theatre feel like a museum.?

But it's really about the music, and last night, the Jalopy hosted "?Brooklyn Country Christmas.?"

Gary Keenan, lead singer and the progenitor of Brooklyn Country Christmas, tapped the toe of his cowboy boot. Dressed in a suit jacket and felt hat with a candy case tucked above the rim, his smoky voice invokes the feeling of listening to Christmas standards on the radio.

"I bought my first mandolin at a flea market for thirty bucks and recorded myself playing Christmas songs as a gift for my family," Gary said. "Christmas songs sound so nice played as bluegrass. That's what gave me the idea to start hosting Brooklyn Country Christmas."?

American String Conspiracy? performed a number of Christmas traditionals and non-traditionals. Particularly entertaining was a bluegrass version of "What Child is This" with a graceful fiddle followed by "Run Run Rudolph" featuring a wailing harmonica.

In past years, Gary held the event at venue's like the late, great ?Freddy's Back Room?. This year, J.D. Duarte,? who runs brooklyncountry.com and performs with The Newton Gang,? wanted to do a Christmas show at Jalopy. Knowing that bluegrass is always best with a crowd of musicians swapping songs and instruments, J.D. asked Gary if he wanted to team up for a night of holiday music.

The Wiley's thought, "Why not?"

The couple's home-spun mentality translates in their venue. Even though the employees aren't blood relatives, Jalopy is run like a family affair. ?

When the Jalopy school for music got too popular, Lynette and Geoff converted their living room above the venue into a learning space.?

Geoff and other musicians from the community offer classes in guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo and ukulele and all students are able to rent instruments from the store for $25 a month. The performance area on the main floor can be reorganized to comfortably accommodate Jalopy's seven-person class size.

For the Wiley's, making space for people is exactly what the Jalopy is all about.

"We've always envisioned having a community where people could pursue their art," Lynette said with bright eyes and a beaming smile.? - Carroll Gardens Patch


The man: JD Duarte
Web site: www.brooklyncountry.com
Band: The Newtown Gang. Like their 1920s namesake, they're rooted firmly in the stealth-outlaw tradition
Main event: Brooklyn County Fair. A quarterly event, mark your calendars for the spring installment, March 21 at Spike Hill, featuring the Doc Marshalls, The Newtown Gang, and more
Why he does it: "I visit clubs locally and do my best to reach out for bands I have never heard before to get them involved with the festival and the Web site." - 24/Seven


JD Duarte catches a lot of shows.

As the man behind the Web site, BrooklynCountry.com, he’s scouring the city for bands of all stripes, from country to bluegrass to Americana to cow-punk to rockabilly, to promote for gigs.

“I visit clubs locally and do my best to reach out for bands I have never heard before to get them involved with the festival and the Web site,” says Duarte.

This month, the Brooklynite has united some of the best he’s seen for the Brooklyn County Fair, a seasonal festival. This winter’s will be held at Jalopy in Red Hook, featuring new and old local favorites of Duarte’s: Citigrass, Blue Harvest, The Newton Gang, Uncle Monk and Rooftops.

“I had recently moved to New York and gotten involved with the local country music scene and found myself having trouble booking local gigs with other country bands,” says Duarte of the origins of the festival, which began three years ago at Galapagos Art Space.

The opener of January 16 show – Rooftops – Duarte found at Banjo Jim’s in Manhattan. “They blew me away and I asked them to join the show right away,” he says. They kick things off at 8 p.m., followed by indie-acoustic duo Uncle Monk, featuring Tommy Ramone on vocals, mandolin, guitar, banjo and dobro, and Claudia Tienan (formerly of the group The Simplistics) on vocals, guitar and bass. The pair have played the festival before and were available a second time around and “I jumped at the chance to have them join us again,” says Duarte.

“We do a bunch of original songs in an indie-bluegrass style. We also do some traditional old-time and bluegrass songs,” says Ramone (nee Tom Erdelyi), the last surviving original member of the Ramones, who’s traded in his punk rock roots for, these days, bluegrass. “We are currently recording our second CD, and we are having a great time doing it.”

Duarte didn’t have to look far for the next act. At 10 p.m., the Brooklyn-based Newton Gang, which is fronted by Duarte (pictured), takes Jalopy’s auditorium-like stage. Like their 1920s namesake, The Newton Gang is rooted firmly in the stealth-outlaw tradition, “an outlaw country band,” says the musician. Look for a more acoustic set at this show.

At 11 p.m., it’s another local act with Blue Harvest, who Duarte saw at Parkside Lounge in Manhattan and recruited for the festival. With members whose roots extend to Nashville, the Ozarks, and Appalachia, Blue Harvest is dedicated to exploring the rich heritage of traditional American music, drawing from sources ranging from Bluegrass and Texas Swing to old-time fiddle tunes, Cajun and country blues.

And last but not least on the bill is the Cobble Hill-based Citigrass, which specializes in blending rock and jam influences with traditional bluegrass. In their set, “folks can expect to hear compelling original material, blistering renditions of bluegrass classics, and some of their favorite rock and pop tunes grassed-up Citigrass style,” says Sandy Israel, banjo player and vocalist for the bluegrass band, which is in the studio polishing up their latest CD.

Citigrass was a natural closer for the night, says Duarte. “They bring such an energy and so much talent to the table.”

Duarte first saw them play at Freddy’s Bar in Prospect Heights for the Kings County Opry this past fall. Other recent highlights of the band’s include work on the soundtrack of the new Billy-Bob Thornton movie, “Astronaut Farmer,” sit-ins by Phish bassist Mike Gordon and a private performance for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Suffice it to say, Duarte was not in on that one.

The Brooklyn County Fair is January 16 at 9 p.m. at Jalopy (315 Columbia St.). Tickets are $10. The event will also feature a new ale by Sixpoint Craft Ale, one of the event’s sponsors, on tap at Jalopy. For more information, go to www.jalopy.biz or call 718-395-3214. - 24/Seven


A casual visitor could be forgiven for thinking that the finer points of country, bluegrass and roots music is lost on the average New Yorker. The hipster ghetto of Williamsburg, might be currently overrun with scruffy students with banjos and washboards but where can you go to hear good ol’ fashioned country music? Greenwich Village? Nope. The 50’s and 60’s hub for folk, roots music and counter culture is now a parade of kebab shops and comedy clubs catering to tourists and those wide-eyed fresh-faced arrivals, recently decanted from the Port Authority Bus Terminal.



In November of 2005 Tom Breihan of the Village Voice, (VV) New York’s events and entertainment guide, wrote about the first ever visit of the Country Music Association’s Awards (CMAA):



“It's the first time the event has been held in a city outside Nashville, and New York remains possibly the only big city in America with no country station, so this is anything but a natural pairing.”



Below: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg with

Brooks and Dunn at CMAA 2005



The event, a huge publicity stunt that was expected to take in $30 million in tourist dollars, was hoped by some to spark a renewed interest in the genre.



“Anyone who looks between the cracks of this temporary official hoopla will find small but thriving pockets of homegrown country.” Kurt Gottschalk

(VV. Tuesday, Nov 1 2005).



Texas born JD Duarte the leader of The Newton Gang and the engine behind the website Brooklyn Country says the country music scene in New York is alive and well and any minute will be kicking down your front door.

“I moved out to New York from Los Angeles in July 2005 to produce an album for a band from Rockland County…the project got pushed and I moved into Brooklyn and started looking for work.”



He met up with Kamara Thomas and Gordon Hartin, previously band-mates in L.A. They’d had an idea to set up a Sunday afternoon country music show.



“We moved from L.A. to NYC together.” Kamara told me. “On the way we stopped in Levelland, Texas, Gordon’s hometown, to visit his family." Gordon’s father is John Hartin a country musician and with Gordon, he showed her around the haunts in the town where he grew up.



“It blew my mind!” She said.



John was like an encyclopedia of country music, she recalled. In fact he played a regular show as The Living Jukebox where people could request any country song from an almost infinite list and the band would play it. And kick ass, too. Impressed with the sounds and the community that sprang from the music, Kamara and Gordon came to New York thinking that maybe they could do something similar. With Kamara’s connections at The Living Room on Ludlow Street, a beautifully maintained venue with a remarkable sound, they started a Sunday afternoon show called the ‘Honky Tonk Happy Hour’.



The trouble with mainstream country music to the uninitiated, Kamara thinks, is you can’t always hear to connection to what make country music great in the first place.



“When you listen to say, a Carrie Underwood song, it’s hard to hear the link to Hank Williams.”



Because of this there’s a general resistance to mainstream country in New York. Perhaps, because it seems like unsophisticated pop music. Kamara wanted to bring country music an audience she knew was here and expose the real songwriting and melodies that makes country, well, country. It’s not a bad idea. Arguably with an education in the roots of the genre, an appreciation of modern country could follow.



HTHR began with Kamara and Gordon pressing many of her non-country friends and musicians into service. JD recalls the first time he was asked to sit in:



“I wasn’t a singer – I was a guitar player and I didn’t play country, but Gordon said: ‘you’re from Texas! You must be able to sing country!’ I got up and sang Waylon Jennings theme from the Dukes of Hazard!”



Below: JD at the Living Room/HTHR at his first solo gig.

To some degree, the loose application of the term ‘country’ during the afternoon sessions, helped popularize the show. Though some might complain it wasn’t country at all.



“Some weeks we’d play Dylan and Neil Young songs as much as George Jones and Loretta Lynn. In fact we used to close the evening with Delta Dawn by Tanya Tucker or Isis by Bob Dylan.”



But what was happening was people were starting to turn on to country. People started hearing the connections.



Kamara recalls fondly those first three years of HTHR.



“Some times it was miraculous but sometimes it was a shit show!”



Kamara insisted on trying to get everyone stage time so there was a mix of abilities every week. “It’s true I had trouble trimming the fat!” she confessed.



In the end, there were so many people involved it became too much.



“We rehearsed all day Saturday for this 3 hour show, every week! It became exhausting.” Eventually, by 2008 the tornado blew itself out.



"I think what JD did (with Brooklyn Country Fair) is create a much more sustainable format.”



“I got the itch…” JD explained. “I was inspired to venture out as a musician and started looking for venues and events.”



But where could he go? The Village Voice, spurred on by the CMA’s impending arrival in 2005, decided to go out find the wellspring that was country music in New York City. They published a ‘where-to-go’ guide for fans looking for country and roots music. The list was a scattering of opportunities, mostly in venues were in unfashionable parts of the borough of Brooklyn. But there were people who wanted country music. For example: Alex Battles, who describes himself as a ‘Reluctant promoter’ on his website, was putting on the small but well attended Brooklyn Country Music Festival (BCMF) at Freddy’s Back Room that year (The next BCMF will be number eight).



With his new purpose JD, with VV article under his arm, he soon washed up at Hank’s Saloon in Boerum Hill, where he became a bartender. He met Uncle Leon from Uncle Leon and the Alibis who had been running his own website dedicated for the musicians who love to play country music in the Big Apple. The site was called 'Brooklyn Country.com.'



Working on the existing database of artists and musicians JD, with his soon to be wife, designer Andrea Sepic and his bass player, Chet Hartin, rejigged the site. While he was out looking for country JD ran into all types of roots music flourishing independently. Much more than a website for country music, BC.com became an umbrella for all kinds of roots and country music. bluegrass, zydeco, blues are all included here on the artists page which lists 100 + bands and songwriters.



“There isn’t really a definite 'Brooklyn Country' sound for that reason.” JD told me. “It’s a resource for others so they don’t have to make the mistakes I made when I was getting started.”



HTHR had spawned a monster. A tribute to country music had grown into a scene. The musicians started getting serious about the music and forming their own bands.

photo: Brian Young



Kamara started Ghost Gamblers (pictured she's second from right), Serena Jean Southam started her own project and Jeff Malinowski started The Basement Band. But HTHR had become a more sporadic event and few venues perhaps only Hill Country, The Rodeo Bar and Banjo Jim's catered for this music.



“It’s hard to get people out (to a show) when you’re sandwiched between a death metal band and a hip hop act. People just don’t want to stick around.”



Getting an audience to show up for a 40 minute set and pay $10 plus drinks isn’t all that appealing when the next show is a Metallica tribute band. He started asking the bookers if he could book the whole night. The bookers were happy because he was doing their job for them for free. So he’d book 4 country acts in a row. He learned many things from HTHR, including:



“If you have 3 hours of consistent music people will stick around and stay for 3 hours.”



JD started organizing the Brooklyn County Fair. The first BCF was March 25 at Galapagos in Williamsburg. Now Brooklyn Country has two regular shows a month including Gotham Rodeo, Brooklyn County Fair .



The thing that makes brooklyncountry.com more than a website is the way JD’s approach. He works his ass off firstly, but secondly and with considerably more cunning, he insists people get involved. Want to get your CD reviewed on Brooklyn Country? Review someones CD. Musicians review other bands releases and shows. Want to play at BCF? Show up at the events. JD is keen to reward enthusiasm with stage time.



“If I see someone showing up and getting involved at the County Fair really putting in the effort. I’ll help them. I’m not judgmental about their music. The cream will always rise to the top.”



He carries a dozen CD’s of other people’s music around with him to hand out to potential reviewers.



“I only ask if they don’t like it to give it back and I can pass it on to someone else.”

The next step is expanding the BCF and making Brooklyn Country a name to be reckoned with nationwide.



“I’m trying to encourage a grassroots do-it-yourself gig-swapping sort of thing.”



Duarte tries to invite an out of town band to play the BCF every month on the understanding they’ll return the favor in their home town. He did this when Sam Otis Hill played at BCF and Sam had the Newton Gang play with him in Boston recently.



July 9th sees the release of the sampler CD “This is Brooklyn Country Vol. 1”. JD hopes this will show the rest of the world that Brooklyn Country is not a contradiction in terms. - No Depression


Discography

The Newton Gang (April 28, 2011)

Photos

Bio

Outlaw country, tried and true. Frontman and singer JD Duarte started out as a drummer for national touring folk an Americana artists before putting his own band together in New York. From their humble beginnings as part of the Honky Tonk Happy Hour to their current role as Brooklyn's most prolific outlaw country band, The Newton Gang has come into their own. Together, they curate and host Brooklyn County Fair, Brooklyn's only country music showcase- hosting traveling artists as well as fledgling locals.

Duarte, with a team of locals, also operates BrooklynCountry.com, a community site that promotes shows, venues, CD reviews, and links to all things country in New York. The site has expanded to surrounding areas as The Newton Gang's recognition has increased.

With a star-studded CD release featuring 2011 Grammy recipient Dom Flemons of Carolina Chocolate Drops and Emmy-nominated producer Rench (one of the many musicians Duarte has toured with), The Newton Gang has staked their claim in the Brooklyn Country music scene.

The Newton Gang thanks you for listening and hopes to see you soon.